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The governor will be required to fill Kerry’s seat temporarily with an interim appointment, while setting a day for the special election between 145 days and 160 days after Kerry’s resignation. In the 2010 special election to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, Patrick required his interim appointee, former Democratic Party Chairman Paul Kirk, not to run for a full term.

Patrick said he expects anyone he appoints on a temporary basis this time would also not run in the special election.

Former Gov. Michael Dukakis, retiring Rep. Barney Frank and Victoria Kennedy, widow of Sen. Kennedy, have been mentioned in Democratic circles as possible interim senators. This past week, Dukakis played down interest in the post while Kennedy declined comment.

Although Democrats are riding high off Warren’s victory, several of the arguments they brought to bear in the 2012 campaign wouldn’t apply in a special election. They can’t say, as they did in the Warren campaign, that defeating Brown might tip the balance of power in the Senate. Or that electing him would strengthen the hand of a Republican president.

Still, the Democratic Party chairman, John Walsh, said the party has a wide pool of candidates and attributed Brown’s loss to a rejection of his voting record.

“I don’t think Scott Brown is any kind of prohibitive favorite,” Walsh said. But he’d “certainly be a front-runner.”

If there is a special election, whoever wins shouldn’t get too comfortable. The senator will face re-election in 2014, when Massachusetts voters will endure yet another Senate election.